4th Grade – The Mola of Panama

4th Grade – The Mola of Panama

Description of the Unit – The Mola, a traditional cloth worn by the Kuna (from the tiny San Blas Islands off the coast of Panama), are quite brightly colored, in contrasting patterns of various shapes, and in the center depicting what is typically an animal, plant or person of special interest to the Kuna. Students will explore the tradition of Molas, noting the use of contrasting colors, abstract patterns as well as noting the contrasting organic shapes of the main subject to the mostly geometric shapes of the background patterns. Students will use their understanding of these elements to create their own interpretation of the Mola in colored construction paper.

Map of Panama pointing to the very tiny San Blas Islands, origin of the Mola
Map of Panama pointing to the very tiny San Blas Islands, origin of the Mola
This is a Kuna woman of Panama wearing a traditional Mola around her chest
A Kuna woman expressing the traditional use of a Mola in dress
An example of a conventional Mola, depicting a bird surrounded by brightly colored patterns
An example of a conventional Mola
An example of a conventional Mola, depicting a large, vibrant fish surrounded by purple geometric designs
This too is an example of a classic Mola

Goals: Students should…

Understand:

  • What a Mola is
  • The classification of complimentary colors
  • What makes a pattern

Know:

  • Where the Mola comes from
  • How a Mola is used
  • The difference between geometric and organic shapes

Be able to:

  • Identify a Mola
  • Create contrast to support a focal point
  • Create a pattern out of a variety of lines and/or shapes

Objectives – Students will: exercise their fine motor skills as they use scissors to cut images and shapes that they will glue onto a colored format, emphasizing color, pattern and shape.

Resources and materials –

  • Examples of Molas
  • Multicolored construction paper
  • Scissors
  • Glue

Questions – (While observing traditional Molas)

  • Where is Panama?
  • Who are the Kuna?
  • When did Molas first appear? Why?
  • What do you notice about (this) Mola?
  • What do you notice about the colors?
  • What do you notice about the shapes?
  • Do you notice any patterns? Where?
  • What animal is this?

Evaluation – Did students:

  • Use contrasting colors to create a focal point?
  • Use a variety of shapes to create patterns?
  • Thoughtfully fill the negative space on their format?

Informal:

  • Group discussions
  • Oral responses to essential questions
  • Personal focus and risk-taking

The following are various 4th grade student Molas. I love how very different each one is, reflecting the many personalities among these kids. Apologies for the shadows on some of these. We did these while sheltering in place during Covid 19, so the students were responsible for taking their own photos to post on our assignment-sharing platform.

A 4th grade student Mola, depicting a purple fish surrounded by green and orange patterned lines
Student Mola, 4th Grade Art Education
A 4th grade student Mola, depicting a black rabbit surrounded by shapes and lines of various colors
Student Mola, 4th Grade Art Education
A 4th grade student Mola, depicting an intricately patterned blue eagle surrounded by multicolored patterns in triangles and circles
Student Mola, 4th Grade Art Education
A 4th grade student Mola, depicting a handsomely dressed fox surrounded by multicolored lines in different directions
Student Mola, 4th Grade Art Education
A 4th grade student Mola, depicting an intricately patterned yellow alligator surrounded by multicolored patterns in green and pink, with a pink butterfly
Student Mola, 4th Grade Art Education
A 4th grade student Mola, depicting a variously colored cat's head and many layers of patterns, all adorned with "stitches" to look like a real Mola
Student Mola, 4th Grade Art Education (this student also chose to show “stitches” like a real Mola)
A 4th grade student Mola, depicting a blue and green fish and surrounded by geometric and organic patterns in blue, green, pink and purple.
Student Mola, 4th Grade Art Education
A 4th grade student Mola, depicting a red dog framed by lines of various colors.
Student Mola, 4th Grade Art Education
A 4th grade student Mola, depicting a blue dragon and blue and green patterns, all adorned with "stitches" to look like a real Mola
Student Mola, 4th Grade Art Education – another student going for the authentic Mola look by adding “stitches”
A 4th grade student Mola, depicting an orange elephant surrounded by multicolored rectangles.
Student Mola, 4th Grade Art Education
A 4th grade student Mola, depicting a purple butterfly with geometric patterns of pink and blue inside the wings, and surrounded by blue circles and green rectangles.
Student Mola, 4th Grade Art Education
A 4th grade student Mola, depicting a blue dove with artistic patterns within its body, and surrounded by rectangles in various shades of green.
Student Mola, 4th Grade Art Education
A 4th grade student Mola, depicting an orange owl that is adorned in multicolored patterns of stars, surrounded by a multicolored array of patterns in both organic and geometric shapes.
Student Mola, 4th Grade Art Education

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